Buckets and Barrels – Oke

“When Nakagawa Shuji’s grandfather, Kameiichi, turned ten years old, he went to work at Tarugen. This famed maker of oke (wooden pails or buckets) and barrels, had been established in Kyoto during the waning years of the Edo period (1603-1868), and was to become Kameiichi’s workplace for the next 40 years. In the process, Kameiichi became a master shokunin (artisan). For his loyalty to Tarugen, he was allowed to open his own shop and make, among other items, yudofu-oke, oval-shaped wooden containers used for serving boiled tofu, which he sold to high-class Kyoto restaurants and private buyers. “Grandfather at work was beautiful to watch.” Shuji remembers, “And the products he created were also splendid and of high-quality. The ideal of the Japanese woodcraft artisan is that at the final sweep of the plane, the separate elements become a single object. My grandfather was making oke that way.”

Nakagawa Shuji: Oke Maker in Kyoto